We recently had the chance to catch up with Deepika Nikhilender Senior Vice President for the Asia Pacific at programmatic media and technology platform, Xaxis.
Over the course of our conversation, Nikhilender, who joined Xaxis in April 2018, has held leadership positions at Mindshare, Ogilvy, and CtrlShift, talks about the challenges brands face engaging with a fragmented market in Southeast Asia, the ever-evolving problem of ad fraud, the future of programmatic, and more.
There never seems to be a dull moment in our industry with the various technologies reshaping the advertising business in the region. Across Asia’s 14 diverse markets I have been focused on introducing clients to the outcome-driven solutions that are delivering measurable value.
I manage a spectrum of functions that drive operational excellence and shape the effectiveness of the end solution we place in front of the client ranging from data, technology, analytics to solution development. I also make myself informed of trends, developments, updates in these areas which I need to be a confident consultant and trusted advisor. Other than these, my days are also filled with watching content (I love TED!), long walks with my dog (while practicing social distancing!), doing Zentangle, and baking.
By 2025, the e-commerce industry in Southeast Asia is expected to grow eightfold to $102 billion in sales. Despite the huge growth potential, the region can be difficult for brands due to a fragmentation across the 10 ASEAN countries. Talk more about that and how brands are tackling this issue.
E-commerce has massive potential to grow in the region, but the differences in each market are so great that a one-size-fits-all approach in advertising will not yield the same outcomes across the board. These mobile-first markets provide opportunities, particularly with the growth of online shopping, to mine valuable data that can be used to target potential customers at the right point in their purchase journey.
Among ASEAN markets, the challenges posed by fragmentation, logistics, geographic connectivity and the disparate financial systems result in fierce competition, low prices, low margins and loss of brand control. In essence, brands face dilution and drop in customer experience. Without customer interaction and traffic to their own websites, brands will quickly lose the influence, data and customer insights. This also causes brands to risk extremely disjointed and siloed experience, one that is online and the other, offline.
To counter this, brands are now adopting a dual strategy where possible, one of ‘owned & operated’ (aptly creating their own brand.com), and third-party e-commerce platforms. For that strategy, brands should be very clear of the audience they want to target, what is the category of the brand, which channels they want to deploy, and the gaps they want to fill in the category.
Success comes into picture when brands employ a clear e-commerce strategy that is guided by the brand’s overall business goals and value proposition. To get the strategy right, brands should decide what role they want to play on different channels, which audience they want to target, how they can retain their customer experience promise, and the gap they want to fill in the category.
To succeed in the eCommerce ecosystem, brands must pay as much focus on building their brands’ equity and value as they would in the offline world. The imperative here is creating delightful customer experiences through discovery, service and stories. All this is possible with a stitched-up communications strategy that does not delink online and offline. And a powerful data strategy that gather all the meaningful data needed to inform the strategy.
At Xaxis, we see ourselves at the forefront of a revolution in how technology, data, and expertise come together to create a new model for the advertising industry. Being the pioneer in the world of programmatic advertising and data-driven marketing sets Xaxis apart hence we cannot directly be compared to other data, tech, or consulting companies.
“Among ASEAN markets, the challenges posed by fragmentation, logistics, geographic connectivity and the disparate financial systems result in fierce competition, low prices, low margins and loss of brand control.”
Xaxis remains robust in pushing our own boundaries and challenging ourselves. It is with this mindset that we emerge in the advertising industry as the first outcome media company that gives great importance to combining the power of data, high quality and unique brand-safe media inventory access, and unrivaled data-driven trading expertise led by over a thousand programmatic experts globally. Powered by the Xaxis proprietary artificial intelligence, we are able to achieve the outcomes the businesses value from their media investments.
Ad fraud is a challenge that never ceases to evolve. Fraudsters continuously develop new schemes to evade detection and extract value from the advertising ecosystem. Research suggests that advertisers will lose billions this 2020 if not addressed.
In APAC, supply-side platforms and publishers are currently regarded as the primary gatekeepers against ad fraud and are expected to take greater responsibility, whereas expectation will be lower for brands, as reported in the 2020 Industry Pulse Report of Integral Ad Science.
The report also stated that minimizing risk will be the main focus of media quality assurance tactics across APAC this year instead of solving for measurement challenges also mentioned by experts in the region. Moreover, 62% of respondents from the region said that they are committed to taking proactive measures to block and filter content considered unsuitable for their brand in order to minimize media quality challenges in 2020.
In a recent article, Xaxis said that many hesitate to bear the cost of brand safety. Where are we at in terms of ensuring brand safety and what is being done towards improving ad placement?
Avoiding and trying to eliminate fraud is the goal of every player in the advertising and media industries that fully understands the ultimate damage that can be done. While brand safety is not a new concept, how it is applied in the digital space has become very crucial.
While research varies on how much consumers blame advertisers for placements adjacent to content they find offensive or worse, there is considerable agreement that certain types of publishers and content must be avoided. Industry groups agree on a “floor” for safety, the places every brand wants to avoid: illegal drug sales, hate speech, harm to children, as well as pirated content, to name a few.
“To succeed in the eCommerce ecosystem, brands must pay as much focus on building their brands’ equity and value as they would in the offline world.”
There is a significant interplay between brand safety and suitable context. Since there is no one environment that best matches the needs of every brand, when discussing “safety”, some marketers really mean “suitability”. Determining brand suitability — specific environments acceptable for a given brand — means that brands are learning to make individualized choices that match their specific needs.
Given this, Xaxis approaches fraud and brand safety with new levels of nuance and sophistication through increasing investment, and enlisting partners to improve capabilities as new guidance emerges. Our main goal includes both brand safety and brand suitability, thus bringing better quality and effectiveness to our clients’ media spends. We assess websites using Xaxis’ 10-step process which includes parameters to be checked such as domain names, the About Us page (if clearly labelled), and where sufficient information on user data collection have been provided. Not only does this remove all fraudulent and low-quality domains from the inventory, but also ensures that Xaxis’ inventory suppliers are most ethical and top quality.
Moreover, we have also been moving into the safety and suitability of the app environment especially since majority of Southeast Asia’s media consumption comes from its heavily mobile users.
We believe KPIs should go beyond the measurement of CPMs and CTRs, but by goals that are more closely aligned to an actual business outcome. The key factor in digital media strategy that next generation of CMOs and marketers must ultimately measure would be the business outcome.True ROI measurement rather than vanity metrics [will] demonstrate the value of programmatic media buying.
At Xaxis we work with marketers to build a evolve a custom KPI for their digital marketing. We call this a Custom Outcome Indicator. A Custom Outcome Indicator is a brand’s unique digital proxy for a real business outcome. We specifically build this for a client, as a leading indicator of their real business outcome (which could be sales, number of visitors, cars sold, tickets bought – you name it!).
Xaxis contends that programmatic media is “the likely future state of all media.” Tell us more about this contention and what it means for brands.
In this era, data is the heart that keeps businesses alive. All sectors, whatever size the organizations may be, collect data that are used to fully address their needs and to ultimately achieve their goals. In the advertising world, marketers need to design a creative approach on how to use data signals and turn these into informed messages and critical decisions.
In short, programmatic advertising is an important enabler of data-driven marketing for brands. Its application is automated, but it is biddable to address specific audiences, too. Xaxis believes media will be programmatically traded in time, yes, as we see now that audio, video, and OOH media are all already becoming programmatically enabled.
What does this mean for Brands? This means that they will need to get more informed about this space – as it needs them to navigate the complexity of this ecosystem. They will need to build an infrastructure of seamless bridges between ad technology and marketing technology so that data siloes are broken. Lastly, this also means that they need to be ready to transform and change. Brands will need to put data at the heart and be enabled with an infrastructure, culture, talent that can use it for decision-making and design a creative approach and messaging by listening to the data signals.